A Delta flight attendant assists a passenger on board a flight

Safety Management System

Delta’s SMS is our comprehensive approach to occupational and operational safety, focused on identifying hazards, assessing and mitigating risk, monitoring our safety performance and promoting a positive safety culture.

In 2017, Delta was among the first airlines to receive U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) validation for our SMS, and we continue to enhance our approach as best practices evolve. In September 2023, Delta signed the International Air Transport (IATA) Safety Leadership Charteropens in a new window, which includes eight guiding principles.

In late 2023, we added Safety Leadership as another element of Delta’s SMS to reinforce our positive safety culture. Safety Leadership is a set of behaviors demonstrated by individual actions that drive Delta’s safety culture and that are promoted by all employees. Regardless of their title or role, Safety Leadership requires Delta employees to embody the following behaviors: integrity, clear communication, accountability, listening and care. By embracing these characteristics, we illustrate our commitment to the safety of our people and customers and to making safety our number one value.


Safety Culture

The Way We Fly – our refreshed Code of Ethics and Business Conduct – reinforces our safety expectations and standards for employees and business partners around the world. Delta is committed to the principles of Just Culture, where employees and partners are empowered to report hazards and mistakes, leaders are accountable for responding in a fair manner and we are all committed to continuous improvement.

Integral to fulfilling our safety commitment is the timely flow of information from employees concerning safety, security and compliance issues so that appropriate preventive and corrective measures may be taken. To achieve this, Delta has implemented voluntary hazard reporting programs that encourage the confidential reporting of all incidents and occurrences that could possibly affect the safe operation of our airline. Reports are fairly and fully investigated, and Delta will not take disciplinary action against an employee for reporting safety and security hazards, concerns or incidents, including those in which an error occurs while the employee is acting in good faith.

We understand that people sometimes make mistakes while trying to do the right thing. Just Culture focuses on learning from errors rather than placing blame. In 2023, Delta received over 100,000 reports from employees, which provided insights enabling Delta to proactively manage risk.


Our team of deicers play a critical role in keeping our customers and employees safe in the coldest of conditions. If the winter months are their regular season, summer is time for boot camp – getting trained and ready for the winter ahead. Nearly 300 Delta employees from around the operation – from Alaska to Florida – converge at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport every summer to learn the latest techniques and protocols for deicing aircraft.

Managing Safety Risks Through Hazard Identification and Change Management

As part of our SMS, we use Safety Risk Management (SRM), a process where we proactively identify various hazards in our operation that could lead to an accident or incident and put in place controls to mitigate those risks. For example, we use SRM for:

  • Implementation of new systems, such as a new aircraft type
  • Revision of existing systems, such as procedural or manual changes
  • Development of new procedures, such as adding new airports to our network
  • Identification of new hazards or ineffective risk controls through proactive analysis of our safety data

At Delta we consider SRM an essential element of change management and it is routinely applied as changes occur around the airline.

For example, we initiated SRM when we introduced FlightPulse, a real-time performance review tool that lets pilots see hazard-related risks and make adjustments mid-flight. Through this pre- and postflight tool, pilots can compare data associated with their flights to assess how they are performing compared to peers and standard operating procedures. Pilots can also use FlightPulse in-flight to see top risks for any given location – including weather, historical trend data, regulatory considerations and more – so they can make necessary adjustments mid-flight. Assembling a team of stakeholders, we completed an evaluation of FlightPulse to identify potential hazards of using the tool and conducted a risk assessment of each hazard to determine the level of controls and mitigations required to reduce risk to an acceptable level. We continue to monitor controls on the use of FlightPulse to ensure effectiveness. Delta is the first U.S. airline to provide this type of resource to its pilots.

We also integrated the core tenets of our SMS to enhance our aircraft deicing program as part of our ongoing change management efforts. In 2023, we conducted a risk assessment of our deicing practices using risk data collected the previous year. We identified communication – how our employees and business functions align on deicing procedures – as an area for potential improvement. As a result, we introduced a standards program for deicers that includes conducting proficiency checks at the beginning of the season, to measure effectiveness of training, as well as midway and at the end of season, to ensure that deicers retain information and maintain best practices. These proficiency checks are offered in person and remotely through a virtual reality training platform. By continuously checking the effectiveness of and compliance with procedures, policies and training, Delta is minimizing the potential for an unsafe condition before dispatching an aircraft.


  • FAA’s Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) system
  • Flight Safety Foundation (FSF)
  • Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST)
  • National Safety Council (NSC)
  • International Society of Air Safety Investigators (ISASI)
  • Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) – Confidential Employee Safety Reporting
  • Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) Program – Flight Data Monitoring
  • International Air Transportation Association (IATA) – Safety Group and committees
  • Ground Handling Operations – Safety Team (GHOST)
  • Airlines for America (A4A) – Safety Council and Committees
  • American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP)

Safety Assessments and Audits

We conduct routine audits of compliance and effectiveness of our SMS and safety and operational procedures through our Internal Evaluation Program. These process audits play a crucial role in maintaining the health of operationally critical policies and procedures. We also conduct regular quality assurance audits at domestic and international locations to evaluate ground and maintenance operations. Audit results are incorporated into the SMS and reviewed by leaders every month.

In addition, Delta also receives independent, third-party safety audits through the FAA, IATA’s Operational Safety Audit program and the U.S. Department of Defense.


Being Prepared for In-flight Medical Events

Delta flight attendants are not only experts in providing elevated service to our customers, but are also safety professionals who are trained and equipped with the tools to respond during in-flight medical events.

In 2023, Delta instituted a pair of key, tech-enabled enhancements to help our flight attendants more effectively handle in-flight medical events. The first is a new in-flight medical support provider, MedAire’s MedLink service, which provides our flight attendants with direct access to the service’s team of doctors through a secure app on their Delta SkyPro mobile devices. This allows for safe, real-time communication of crucial, non-identifiable medical information that will help doctors to more accurately assess the condition of the customer and recommend a course of action for the crew, greatly improving our flight attendants’ abilities to respond quickly to medical events.

In addition, we also upgraded our Red Pouch – the suite of medical diagnostic equipment found onboard Delta aircraft. Expanding on our already comprehensive collection of in-flight medical devices, the upgraded equipment includes a pulse oximeter, temporal thermometer, automatic blood pressure cuff and an enhanced medical-grade stethoscope.

Each Delta flight attendant receives seven weeks of initial training, including medical response training, along with recurrent training every 18 months. This training prepares flight attendants to identify symptoms and provide basic first aid and CPR, including the use of an automated external defibrillator.

At Delta, we are committed to running the safest operation possible. Our people and our business partners are empowered to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of themselves, their colleagues and our customers at all times. That includes slowing down or stopping the operation if they feel it’s necessary. Our people are the most important aspect of our organization, over and above budgets, metrics and any other pressures. But despite these measures, accidents may still happen.

In July, we suffered the loss of a loved, trusted and respected member of the Cargo Operations Team during an accident on the ramp at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). He was a Cargo Lead Agent and had been a member of our Delta family for one and a half years.

After the accident, Delta, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and local law enforcement conducted thorough investigations to understand what happened. Consistent with our risk-based SMS and learning culture, Delta enhanced our cargo operations policy regarding lone workers and the processes surrounding equipment operations.

As we look ahead, we will continue to leverage the strengths of our SMS to ensure we proactively address potential hazards in our system and take action promptly. We are committed to ensuring that every person at Delta goes home to their loved ones safely each day. There is nothing more important.